I started reading Mono while trying to get the taste of Captain Stone out of my mouth-- I mean, not like that, I mean... never mind. For those of you who have yet to read my review of Captain Stone #1, Mono #1 is the other book being released this week by Titan Comics in a partnership with Madefire. Both of these books are Madefire "motion comics." You're probably thinking, "but Austin, wouldn't motion comics just be animations?" No, dear reader: they're just bad comics. But I digress!
Mono has a good deal of charm surrounding it owing to its roots in pulp fiction during World War II. Comics that draw from extant pulp characters (Six-Gun Gorilla has been a popular one latley) or newer creations that draw on a pulpy style (the Hellboy universe is the best example of this) both provide us with an interesting blend of industrial age mythology and reality, benefiting heavily from the ironic ornateness of decades that were part of a more austere time.
Unfortunately, this inherent charm is largely wasted on this first issue. The two main reasons are essentially that Sharp is not great at writing first person narratives, and the comic reads like a comic adaptation of a Michael Bay movie adaptation of this otherwise intriguing character.
One of my biggest problems with Mono is also one of my biggest problems with Captain Stone: the syrupy, over-indulgent way that the characters speak. It makes sense that the prim and proper dude reminiscing in the library would speak like a prim and proper dude reminiscing in a library. But the half-ape early 20th century Jason Statham action hero character too? Okay, maybe his narrative could have been fancy to emphasize the character's human side. I guess this makes sense, using the brutal images of war to depict his animosity while showing his above-average human intellect.
It would, in fact, be a pretty clever contrast: if it was executed correctly. Here's a line: "I write, now, from the dubious sanctity of a somewhat precarious perch." Ugh. I don't have a problem with weaving intelligent or even poetic prose throughout the images of this half-monkey beating the shit out of enemy soldiers. But every line out of every character's mouth is like rolling down a hill of marshmallows and thesauruses on the way to the Globe Theater. Ultimately, the contrast doesn't succeed because there's no contrast between the intelligent voice of Mono and other intelligent voices. Granted I'm biased for having read Captain Stone, but Captain Stone had the same problem with too much fluff in character speech. So, if I am biased, it points to a pretty consistent problem in the scripts being written by Sharp.
The second half of Mono #1 is actually pretty fun, but as a #1 issue it suffers from having no answer to the question of why I should come back. Mono is trying to escape, yes: he's running from machine guns and jumping from rooftop to rooftop. But why do I care about Mono? Because the old guy in the library wants Mono’s story to be remembered? Why do I care about that? Part of the problem in dealing with pulp characters from the past is in how you present them. Obviously there are things outside of the book itself that you can reasonably expect people to know: in any hype surrounding the book, it's mentioned who and what Mono is, and in the foreword we find out about his pulp origins.
But am I supposed to be reading Mono as part of a greater canon of stories that I probably have absolutely no exposure to, or am I supposed to be reading this book about Mono? You obviously don't have to sell me on the idea that a half-ape super soldier is cool because presumably that's why I bought the damn book. But the book launches too quickly into showing me the "super" part without any greater context for Mono's character. I know that's the great challenge of a #1, but I could read any old superhero book. I came to read the one about the Queen's half-ape assassin. Give me some of that context.
At this point, the comic review skeptic is shaking his or her fist and berating me for criticizing the story based on what I wish the story was. But I think that is to misunderstand the point that I'm making: as a person writing a script of a #1 issue of a comic you have a job to do. There are aspects of that job that you either do well or poorly, and those are the main factors that determine whether or not I continue to read your comic. Sure, it's my fault that I did not come for the action story with flowery prose: but Mono's failure is in not making me want to come back.
Writers: Ben Wolstenholme and Liam Sharp Artist: Ben Wolstenholme Publisher: Titan Comics Release Date: 12/17/14 Format: Print/Digital